A Photo for Sunday: Jam and Marmalade

Reader Stradale kindly sent this photo which summed up some of the week’s subjects.

1993 Fiat Punto and 1995 Lancia Y in Milan

This week we discussed the Fiat Punto, quondam class-leader among superminis. The Lancia Kappa came up for more scrutiny (I have to test drive one). Driven to Write also applied its bifocals to rear bumpers – these cars have those.

Before checking my facts, I considered the 1995 Y to be only distantly related to the 1993 Punto. They look very different, the Punto seemingly bigger and taller. But only 40 mm separates the two. It does look smaller by much more and unless I’d skimmed Wikipedia I’d not have really made a strong link between the cars. They are a bit like the Corsa/Adam and old Fiesta/Ka duos.

The Y only came as a three-door whereas the Punto could be entered by third and fourth doors. I suppose the Y was designed as a successor to the Y10 rather than as an alternative to the Punto which is why it seems smaller.

The Fiat Punto remains a great piece of work: I can recall the astonishing spaciousness when I first tried one. Subequent models didn’t add much apart from bulk. The Y on the other hand is still quite a decent little car (as we know here at this site).

Seesaw: that’s another possible headline for this article. As the Punto sank the Y/Ypsilon kept steaming on.


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

17 thoughts on “A Photo for Sunday: Jam and Marmalade”

  1. Is the Ypsilon the last noteworthy design by Enrico Fumia? Next to GG’s rather sober (albeit ’90s soft design-inspired) Punto, it’s certainly rather faddish, but in an endearing way. Unlike, say, the Porsche 996, I never felt offended by the Lancia, despite my typical preference for a more timeless approach.

  2. Always liked both of these and still do – Fiat was really on a roll in styling terms back then. Both still look pretty fresh. The only thing that really noticeably dates the Fiat is that the body sides seem a little reedy and insubstantial, in that early ’90s way (think Dedra, 405). The continuous beltline around the Y alleviates that tendency to some extent; the same detail also provides a neat solution for the rear bumper cut.

    I used to be across the Italian market in a lot more detail about a decade back, and I was always quite impressed how consistently strong the Y’s sales were month-to-month. I somewhat suspect that the transition of the Y into a five-door car has helped it pick up a solid number of what used to be Punto sales, especially as the pricing and engines are very similar. As it is, it’s remarkable to think that it’s only two decades since the Punto was the best-selling car in Europe (for 1997 it was).

    1. The Fiat remains a convincing effort. It’s homogenous and has a clear theme. The bodyside attracts no criticism from me; rather I approve of the curve under the sideglass which gives it a little bit of substance.
      You are most likely right that the current Ypsilon is covering the Punto’s deficiencies. Is that all though? It’d be nice to imagine it’d do similar business if a newer Punto was on sale.

    2. I think the Y has picked up some Punto buyers, but the countervailing effect in this direction isn’t as strong as it might otherwise be because the Lancia as a product is not nearly as compelling as previous generations were relative to the opposition. Around 60k units a year isn’t bad per se for a single-model, single-country lineup, but you couldn’t call it sustainable or even especially notable beyond the fact that Lannie has subsisted on essentially no investment for a decade plus. It just looks reasonable in isolation because Alfa’s numbers in Europe are, to put it politely, diabolical.

      Conveniently for my overt prejudices, Chrysler provides a convenient partial scapegoat. Originally, the Y was supposed to look like this:

      The weak production front end it ended up with was in an effort to ham-fistedly integrate Chrysler cues for the badge swap. What an idiotic move that was.

    3. The Lancia grille you show there is a little better.
      Imagine if Lancia had got a few million to revise steering and suspension and maybe get a decent top-spec model. 100k would be easily attainable.
      How are AR sales at the moment?

  3. That grille’s much better than the two which made it into production.

    Since the current White Hen sits on a Panda (Fiat ‘Mini’) platform extended by 90mm, there must be plenty 500 / Ka bits which could be used to improve dynamics, if the customers held such things as important.

    Could a second generation Musa have helped Lancia? The first was dropped in 2012 after an eight year run and outsold the Fiat Idea. Giving the White Hen an extra pair of doors was a poor substitute for a proper compact MPV.

    The Idea’s future was compromised by being built off that rare thing, a now-extinct Fiat platform from the Tipo 188 Punto. Sergio had high ambitions for the Lancia brand in the early days of his reign, which resulted in the mis-judged Tipo 844 Delta, a sort of Italian Rover 75 on a stretched Bravo platform. When that bombed, rebadged Chrysler abominations followed.

    Now Lancia seem to be directionless. Given the White Hen’s enduring appeal, someone should be given the task and funds to shape the marque into an ‘affordable premium’ brand. Target sales 250,000 by 2022, nothing costing more than €20,0000 before tax.

    I’d kick off by knocking on Mazda’s door for a CX3 to re-badge as the new Pangea, just to rattle Jeep…

    1. But ultimately, the core problem is that Lancia as a stand-alone entity makes no economic sense as it stands. The Musa did surprisingly well but at the end of the day, it was profitable on the accounts because the conversion cost from the Idea was essentially nominal in industry terms. If you did a true-cost analysis on Progetto 350 as a whole, I wouldn’t be surprised if the margins were extremely tight or nonexistent – the Musa beat expectations but the Idea never came close to meeting its declared targets.

      The Delta summed up Fiat’s general lack of clue about what to do with the brand. Not an unpleasant car in itself, but who was it aimed at? The Delta’s product planning brief seemed to revolve around two aims – give Lancia cheap volume (so give it something in-between the two biggest market sectors – two birds with one stone, in theory), but at the same time, do it without treading on any existing group product toes. Which is why it emerged as an in-between size, and heavily compromised by too much parts-sharing (platform, interior hard points – even the inner frames for the front doors are carried over from the Bravo). It’s a real vicious circle, exacerbated by having a ruthless/joyless accountant at the helm. There was no chance of having the medium-term investment to rebuild the brand with an executive in charge who decrees that every product must individually pay its way, but half-hearted efforts like this and, more so, the Chrysler rebadges were never going to work. Considering there has been serious talk at various points for at least 15 years about axing the brand, I’m honestly quite surprised it has managed to cling on this long.

    2. The Delta supposedly offered near-luxury and distinctive styling. As ever the things that could have made the difference (controls) were overlooked. It did nothing that a Ghia Focus estate could not do. I personally like the car but there are not enough people like me with money to spend for this kind of a “nice car” to be viable. As well as the qualitative factors, the car needed quantitative ones as well and they didn´t exist.

  4. Perhaps the secret behind the current Ypsilon’s success is its appeal to those who have had enough of life:


    Wer den Tod nicht scheut, fährt die weiße Henne…

    An appalling two star rating, worse given that it’s a relatively modern design, and the near-contemporary current Panda, on the same platform manages four stars.

    1. Robertas suggests a fascinating confluence between the undead and those who seek to end their own lives. Yet, according to that Autocar today, the white hen is Italy’s second best selling car so far this year, behind the clearly over-protective Panda. What this says about the Italian motorist’s mindset I leave for others to interpret – I will confine myself to wonder what kind of incentives FCA are flinging Ypsilon-wards.

    2. Second-best selling car, I ask incredulously. That’s quite an achievement for a zombi brand. There simply must be a replacement in the pipeline. They’d be mad to not try to keep that up. Evidently people want this fragment of Lancia character. If I could take a car design job, that’d be the one but only as chief designer.

  5. The VAG Up!/Citigo/Meh gets five stars, and even the 2011 Kia Picanto gets four.

    Are the Italians not bothered about NCAP ratings? If I had to drive there regularly, I bloody would be…

    1. It’s not as safe a place to drive as you would wish. My Amalfi tour was frightening. I was overtaken on blind corners several times. Only luck preserved me.

  6. My recollection of the Punto, when launched, was that it brilliantly moved the game on in terms of Supermini packaging and design in the same way that its original predecessor, the Uno, had done. FIAT were real leaders in design thinking and respected by the industry and the press as such. How did it go so wrong so recently?

    I had loan of a 60 S (I think) for about 6 weeks whilst I was waiting for delivery of my eagerly anticipated new Cinquecento Sporting – yes a FIAT on a waiting list that actually got longer and longer – and really liked it. It was thoroughly modern, roomy, comfortable (although for some reason my wife found it made her car-sick) and nice to drive. It lacked a bit in terms of elan – the steering was soft and the engine struggled a bit at times – which meant I did not once wish that I was keeping it instead of the incoming Cinq, but I did feel like I was driving the class leader.

    1. Those were the days: Autocar and Car regularly reported Fiat’s great design and fun drive quality. Talk was of Cantarella and not jumpers.
      Cinquecento, Punto, Bravo/a, Barchetta. Maybe not Marea…

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